Jose Mourinho and Pep Guardiola might well have ear-marked the Manchester derby as one of the games that would decide their seasons.
However, at the start of the campaign, this is a game that looked like a potential title decider, rather than a key moment in the race for the Champions League.
City sit just a point above United, but the Red Devils have proven difficult to beat this term. If Mourinho’s men avoid defeat here, they will have equalled a club record of 24 consecutive league games unbeaten, which they set in 2010-11.
If United are to escape another draw, they will be relying on Marcus Rashford to keep up his brilliant form. Zlatan Ibrahimovic scored the consolation for United when City won the earlier fixture this season, but of course the Swede’s career is now in doubt after he appeared to rupture his cruciate ligament against Anderlecht.
Marcos Rojo is also out for the season, which is a huge blow for the visitors defensively. All that leaves City as slight favourites on the night at 17/20, despite their erratic form of late.
Nothing too drastic has happened to the Sky Blues – apart from being knocked out of the Champions League and FA Cup – but they are at something of a crossroads, having won only two of their last seven games in all competitions. Those victories came against Hull and Southampton.
United are at 16/5 with PaddyPower, and it does look as though the momentum is with them even if they are expected to prioritise the Europa League.
Even since Sir Alex Ferguson’s departure, the Manchester derby has always been a close affair even if United have trailed City generally. Of their last eight meetings in all competitions, City have won four, United have won three, and just one ended as a draw.
Exactly half of those games have gone under 2.5 goals, and that’s at evens to happen at the Etihad this time around. It should be a close one, and if anything, United are probably better away from home. If one team does edge it, it’ll be a huge step towards the top four.